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American prisons topic of April 22 talk

With 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the prison population, the United States ranks as the top incarcerator on the planet. The reasons for these statistics will be explored in a talk this week.

Dr. Marie Gottschalk will present a lecture titled “Caught: The Future of Penal Reform, the Carceral State and American Politics” Wednesday, April 22, at 7 p.m. in the Libbey Hall dining room.

A reception will precede the free, public event starting at 6:30 p.m. hosted by the School for Interdisciplinary Studies and the UT Inside/Out Prison Exchange Project.

The University of Pennsylvania political science professor published her most recent book, Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics, in 2014. In it, she examines the political dynamics that have resulted in growing numbers of people in the American prison system, significant racial disparities in those who are incarcerated, and other dramatic flaws in the criminal justice system. Her lecture will outline her basic argument and offer insights into reform initiatives.

Dr. Renee Heberle, UT interim director of the School for Interdisciplinary Studies, coordinator for the UT Inside/Out Prison Exchange Project, and professor of political science, said Gottschalk offers a challenging perspective on the American prison system; her book is receiving widespread acclaim.

“This book is receiving national attention and influencing the ongoing and increasingly urgent discussions about our broken criminal justice system,” Heberle said.

Gottschalk also has written The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America and The Shadow Welfare State: Labor, Business, and the Politics of Health Care in the United States.

She is a former editor and journalist and worked as a university lecturer for two years in the People’s Republic of China. She also has served as a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York and was named a Distinguished Lecturer in Japan by the Fulbright Program. She serves on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences National Task Force on Mass Incarceration and was a co-author of its report on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration.

Heberle is excited to welcome Gottschalk because she is also an instructor for the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program at the University of Pennsylvania. This national initiative works to bring college courses into prisons and jails across the country. In The University of Toledo’s program, UT students and incarcerated students at the Toledo Correctional Institution take courses together each semester that work to foster intellectual development and break down barriers to human understanding.

“Many people are not aware of the depths of the crisis we face in our system of incarceration, even while it is dramatically affecting our ability to spend public resources on infrastructure, education and other public goods,” Heberle said. “We need to educate ourselves about this crucial aspect of our collective lives.”

For more information, contact Heberle at


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